The kid Bregga spared will run until he collapses with exhaustion; lost, he notices a tent nearby. As he approaches, dogs begin to bark. Three wiry mutts surround him, their teeth bared. But before they can attack, their master, an elder herbalist, calls them away. She has always been a loner, her solitude supported by the families she helps during their times of injury or illness. She gives the kid water and asks who his parents are. He admits that he never knew them. He assumes that they were a banished couple. Or maybe he was orphaned. He shrugs nonchalantly, though his eyes reveal guarded sorrow. The herbalist makes him a deal: if he becomes her apprentice, she will provide him with food and shelter. He doesn’t want to fight anymore. He thinks that it would be wonderful to heal people instead.

Thus, his apprenticeship begins. It’s hard work, but the herbalist is a patient teacher. The mutts become his friends, and the families he helps are grateful. He is happy. Truly. Sometimes, as the sun sets, he thinks about the battle that changed his life and thanks the mysterious knight who spared him.

The end.

-DLB